Vail Daily letter: Not out of the woods yet
June 3, 2013
I am writing in response to the May 29 letter from Mr. Tom Cerra. I understand that Randy Wyrick's May 22 article, "Budget woes easing for Eagle County School District," made it seem as though our school district was no longer experiencing huge budget shortfalls. However, the school district budget cuts of $14 million over the past three years have had dire consequences for students.
Class sizes have exploded. Next year, my fifth grader will be in a classroom with 32 or 33 students. My seventh grader had 37 students in her science class this past school year.
Multiple programs have been axed. Our middle school no longer offers both a reading and writing class. The two classes were combined to save money. The elective options were greatly reduced, and each teacher lost a planning period and picked up teaching an elective. In addition to eliminating classroom teachers, our elementary school can no longer afford a full-time librarian to help students and to manage resources.
Due to the loss of Title I funding, another full-time position was eliminated for next year. Our high schools no longer offer French or German. The wood shop at Battle Mountain High School has been closed this year. These are just a few examples of the many programs that have been cut.
Children aren't riding in unsafe buses because many bus routes simply went away. We live several miles from both of our schools with one across Highway 6. We no longer have a bus to either school. Many parents drive their children, wasting time and natural resources while clogging already busy roads. Other students are walking and crossing streets creating concerns about safety.
School building maintenance has simply been put on hold. Technology upgrades are no longer happening, so our computers and infrastructures are falling further behind. The district no longer has a director of information technology to set the strategy and evaluate rapidly changing technology needs.
Our teachers are paid less than teachers in both Summit and Garfield counties. Hiring and keeping excellent teachers remains extremely difficult when salaries are not competitive and our cost of living is high.
The fiscal crisis has definitely not ended for our school district. The budget for the upcoming school year is the same as it was in 2008, while both expenses and the number of students have risen.
The underfunding of our schools is a statewide problem that is growing worse. Colorado currently ranks 48th in the nation in per pupil funding. The elections last November saw 33 of 35 districts pass mill levy overrides or bonds for schools, leaving Eagle County even further behind.
The Vail Valley prides itself on world-class recreation, culture, and medicine. It is tragic that our community chose not to invest in our schools and keep us on par with our neighbors, let alone the best in the world.
I personally am in awe of the hardworking, passionate, talented people of the Eagle County School District. They have continued to do more with less.
Education Foundation of Eagle County Trustee